The best video games consoles have had a serious shakeup this year with the arrival of the hotly anticipated PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. These powerful new machines offer the latest and greatest in graphics technology, blistering loading speeds and an array of shiny new games to play on them. But are they the best video game consoles you can buy right now, or should you consider one of the older models?
The PS5 is a triumph of a games console
There is no denying that the PlayStation 5 is a fantastic games console packed full of high tech features that make it feel like a real leap forward for gaming. The hardware is extremely powerful and the custom SSD is ludicrously fast, so you’ll barely have to look at another loading screen. The controller has been reworked too, with the new DualSense pad which has haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that enhance your gaming immersion.
Quite simply the best Xbox ever
The Xbox X is the clear choice if you’re looking for raw power. Stack this alongside a suite of entertainment apps and a 4K Blu-Ray player and this Xbox is the ultimate multimedia machine. While there still isn’t any big hitters game wise, especially compared to Sony or Nintendo, but Microsoft’s recent spree of studio acquisitions and the fantastic Xbox Game Pass subscription means that you won’t be short of excellent games to play.
The best of both worlds
The Nintendo Switch is both a home console and a handheld thanks to an innovative hybrid design. When connected to the dock, the Nintendo Switch behaves just like any other home console but pull it out and it instantly switches into a handheld device. Nintendo’s first party output has always been stellar and the Switch carries on that grand tradition with critically acclaimed hits like Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8.
Diverse Multimedia Options
In many ways the Xbox One S shares the same pros as its bigger brother, the Xbox Series X. Both offer fantastic multimedia options, the exceptional value of Xbox Game Pass and a built-in 4K Blu Ray Player. You won’t be short of games to play, but you’ll miss out on some power. OveralliIt’s almost worth buying the Xbox One S for the 4K Blu-ray player alone.
Dedicated handheld gaming
This lighter revision of the Nintendo Switch drops the docking system and detachable joy-cons, simplifying the design down to a more conventional handheld system. As a result, it’s more comfortable to use. The Nintendo Switch Lite shares its library of games with the regular Nintendo Switch, so you’ll be able to play hits like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Pokemon Sword & Shield.
Key features to look for when buying a gaming console?
Many video games are available for multiple platforms, like Minecraft for example. However, some games are made exclusively for a specific console. So if you’re dying to play Halo or Forza, you'll need an Xbox. Heard great things about Uncharted or The Last of Us? Sony’s PlayStation is the only place they are available. Likewise, any title in Nintendo’s Mario or Zelda franchises can only be played on its devices.
While there are more multi-platform games than exclusives, it’s important to keep in mind that most cross-platform games really only work on the latest Xbox and PlayStation devices, since those systems have such similar capabilities. Nintendo’s consoles, however, have fun and unique features but aren’t nearly as powerful as the others, which makes it harder for developers to create comparable versions of their games for Nintendo consoles.
But with the advent of the Switch, Nintendo has begun collaborating with third-party game developer companies, and now games available on the Switch have improved greatly both graphics- and capacity-wise. The lesson here is to discover what kinds of games you and your family like to play, then choose a console that supports most of them.
Nowadays, it’s the industry standard that new consoles have internet connectivity and basic online multiplayer abilities for other users of that same console. However, at least for the time being, you cannot play with a friend who owns a different console than you. Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online multiplayer network, only works with other recent Xbox consoles; the PlayStation Network – Sony’s equivalent – is similarly restricted as is Nintendo Switch Online. Even playing with people who are on older systems isn’t really a possibility at this point.
Another option is local multiplayer. You can play using two TVs in a single location or using the split-screen feature on a single TV. Many modern games don’t support local multiplayer on a single TV, as it consumes too much processing power to render a game twice over on one screen. However, Nintendo continues to create games and consoles that can abide by this option, making its consoles great for local gaming.
Many consoles have media streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more. These let you watch your favorite shows or listen to music directly on your console; some consoles can even connect to your cable source, thus centralizing your home’s entertainment center. Consoles also have parental controls, which give concerned parents more control than ever over the kinds of games, apps and videos their kids can access.
Most of the latest consoles have the necessary power to play media smoothly and effortlessly. Some can even read Blu-rays and DVDs, so you can watch your entire physical movie catalog without buying a separate disc player. And since the consoles constantly receive automatic software updates, the viewing experience is ever improving.
The newest heavy-duty console to hit the market – the Xbox One X – has 4K HDR playback and the most powerful gaming console processor on the market. The Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro also have some 4K and/or HDR playback abilities, though to a lesser degree than the One X. Any of these is a smart choice if you have a compatible TV and access to 4K games and video, and they can make for the perfect binge session of Netflix’s latest 4K content.
It’s easy to see that Microsoft’s consoles put a heavy focus on entertainment over gaming. The best way to compare it is to say that an Xbox is a media center that also plays games, and the PlayStation is a gaming console that also plays media.
Nintendo understands that not all consoles are meant for the living room. The current-gen handheld consoles include the New Nintendo 2DS and 3DS XL, as well as the Nintendo Switch. Though the hardware of the DS XLs isn’t comparable to traditional consoles, they allow you to game wherever you are. You can play AAA titles on them, and some even allow for 3D gameplay. If you want something more powerful and versatile, which allows for handheld gameplay as well as traditional couch-and-TV-based gaming, for both solo and multiplayer fun, go with the Switch.